Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Anatomy of a Name
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, and as I was researching this week's podcast on that topic, I came across something remarkable - the acronym GRID. It was actually the original name for what is today known as AIDS, but what it stands for shocked me: Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Some called it GRID. Others called it Gay Compromise Syndrome or even "gay cancer."
These names didn't reflect hatred or disapproval but rather a limited understanding of the origins and scope of the disease. But 25 years later, knowing what we know now, it really shook my sensibilities. You see, I was born in 1982, the year after AIDS was first reported, so I guess by the time I was old enough to understand this tragic disease, the world understood it better too, and had given it a much more appropriate name.
Now, more than 40 million people worldwide - straight and gay - are living with HIV/AIDS. And 25 million others have already died from the disease, and in many sub-Saharan African countries, AIDS affects more than 20 percent of the population. Those are mind-blowing numbers! Think of it this way: The only thing affecting that many people in the United States is obesity.
But coming up with a better name is not all that's been done in 25 years. Faster diagnostic tests, better treatments and researchers around the world working towards a cure are a good start. We can only hope that the attention paid to the disease each December 1 will bring us closer to eradicating a global killer.
Make sure to check out the "Paging Dr. Gupta" podcast on iTunes and CNN.com/health for some tips on how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
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